The 3 Capable Men Who Could Manage ESKOM

2015-04-15 13:31

A few weeks friends of mine from Durban convinced me to join them for drinks in Kloof, and what became a nice evening was interrupted by Eskom's load shedding. Of course, by that time we had already had enough liquor in our systems to carry on with the aid of candle lights – such is the life in Cape Town. The mega utility's management and sole shareholder representative, the South African government, are the ones to blame for the failures that peaked in 2008, and again in 2014 through to this year. Their incompetence is in far contrast to that of the South African-born men who run SolarCity, a company based in California, which now boasts the largest and fastest growing clientèle of solar energy in the United States.

Meet Lyndon and Peter Rives

SolarCity – as a utility – and its South African founders find relevance right now not least because of Eskom's failure to do what taxpayers pay it to do, but makes due the question why these two men and their more famous cousin, Elon Musk, opted to take the fight against big electricity utilities to America and not South Africa. Lord knows we could use their help!

The Rives brothers, Lyndon and Peter, where born in Pretoria. According to their company profile, it was their cousin and current company chairman, Elon Musk, who convinced them that solar energy was going to be the next big thing, and they bought it. Solar has been the next big thing since before I was born, but it's never really amounted to much because of the costs per mega watt of solar power, in other words, it's been darn expensive to provide such energy than the tried and tested burning of coal. Just over 10 years since its inception, Elon has made R13-billion, and the brothers own R3-billion of a company that's worth R64-billion at today's exchange rate.

Eskom's Real Business

Eskom is in the business of polluting the world, as the single biggest CO2 emitter according to some estimates. Okay, maybe that may not be the fairest of descriptions. Eskom is in the business of providing reliable electricity to South African citizens [first] and foreign countries that the company has supply contracts with. Unfortunately, the scale at which the company plays may not make SolarCity the best example to compare our public utility with. Its main priority since 2008 has been to burn up as much coal as possible at the Medupi and Kusile power stations, which has been a spectacular failure. Its next priority is proposed to be the fusion of uranium and plutonium at the cost of a whopping R1-trillion.

The unfortunate thing here is that Eskom does not have a Peter and Lyndon Rives at the helm, and does not have Elon Musk as a major shareholder. Instead, we are stuck with government-deployed individuals whose interests could be questioned, and thus strain the input that [qualified and] capable people give to the SOE.

Part of the reason I wrote this was to shed light on the incredible success that three Pretoria boys have had in a foreign country, which I dare say would've been harder in South Africa given the way Eskom is handled, and the way that itself behaves. And those of you who will comment and say that America is different from South Africa, you're 100% right – but the people are the same: we want affordable and reliable energy – therefore SolarCity wouldn't struggle getting a market here as well. Another reason that I wrote this is was because of the success the company recently had with the Hawaiian Electric Company (there's more than just one Eskom in the USA), where its customers feed their excess solar power into the grid which allows for the power company to redistribute that energy to places where demand is higher. This is not to say that Eskom hasn't looked at these innovative solutions, but it's really frustrating that we're having a repeat of 2008 all over again.

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